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God-Given Identity
First Sunday of Lent, March 1, 2009

by Cathy Whitlatch

 
Rev. Cathy Whitlatch is presently serving as the Missionary Interpreter in Residence for the Western Jurisdiction. Previously she has served as a missionary in Argentina, a missionary with the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries, and as a pastor in the Iowa Annual Conference.
Rev. Cathy Whitlatch is presently serving as the Missionary Interpreter in Residence for the Western Jurisdiction. Previously she has served as a missionary in Argentina, a missionary with the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries, and as a pastor in the Iowa Annual Conference.
Image by: Mission Personnel

Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. (Mark 1:9)

In Mark's account of Jesus' baptism, Jesus "saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'" God poured God's self through the torn heavens--identifying Jesus as God's own.

Mark does not mention if anyone else saw the heavens open, but makes it clear that Jesus knew God's claim. The awesome responsibility that came with this declaration must have been unsettling, for the Spirit drove Jesus to the wilderness. There Jesus struggled with living faithfully in a world that offers so many ungodly choices.
We too struggle with our identity as God's beloved. I knew a Latina woman, Maria, who attended a small church. In this particular church, communion was celebrated every Sunday, but for several months Maria did not partake. Each Sunday the invitation was given, and each Sunday she remained seated.

One Sunday she could no longer contain herself and broke down crying. With all eyes fixed upon her, Maria explained how she wanted to take communion, but that she was not worthy. She continued explaining that she had committed many sins. She wept as she told how sorry she was that she had been so bad; that she had made many poor choices that were contrary to God's plan of love and salvation.

Through her repentance she was led to claim her identity as a child of God, worthy of God's love, grace, and spirit. Her life did not instantly become easy. She was tempted to return to her former ways of dealing with loneliness. However, as her faith grew she became more capable of resisting. She participated in Bible studies and invited others to read and study with her.

I also remember working with grade-school children in a poor barrio in Argentina. At a very young age, these children had been exposed to drug dealers, violent crimes, and extreme poverty. There was confusion. Through a Christian Education program, these children found spaces to talk safely about their lives and to hear how precious they were in God's sight. The church, self-declared as a violence-free zone, modeled alternative behaviors.

I'll never forget how Celeste, usually very serious, giggled as she shared with her teachers and sang songs of God's love. The church became a place in which God's spirit was present in these children's lives. Celeste grew up to be one of the teachers in the Christian Education program in that barrio.

God poured through the torn skies to claim Jesus; God poured through Maria's brokenness to affirm her; God poured through the brokenness in the barrio to surround Celeste; and God pours through our brokenness to claim us. The wilderness will not be easy, but neither will we walk alone; for the heavens were torn apart, and God's love pours over us.

Let us pray:
God, we are easily led astray, but you never lose us. Through your abundant love, you call to us and call us your children. Help us to repent of our sins and open ourselves to your healing presence in our lives so that we may claim the identity you have bestowed upon us. Amen.

Rev. Cathy Whitlatch is presently serving as the Missionary Interpreter in Residence for the Western Jurisdiction. Previously she has served as a missionary in Argentina, a missionary with the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries, and as a pastor in the Iowa Annual Conference.


Lent/Easter meditations by missionaries and other resources.

Your local church may choose to enter into a multi-year Covenant Relationship with Catherine Whitlatch,  or other United Methodist missionaries, for ongoing support of their work. For further information, please contact:

The Advance
General Board of Global Ministries
475 Riverside Dr, #350
New York, NY 10115
Phone: 212-870-3718
Fax: 212-870-3775

Email:
covenant@gbgm-umc.org

Web: advancinghope.org

You can make gifts to support the mission work of Catherine Whitlatch, by making a donation through The Advance. The Advance is an accountable, designated giving arm of The United Methodist Church that ensures 100% of each gift reaches its intended mission or ministry.

Make a secure gift online: Visit Global Ministries Online Giving

Checks may be written to 'Advance GCFA' and placed in collection plates at United Methodist churches, or mailed directly to:

Advance GCFA,
P.O. Box 9068, GPO,
New York, NY 10087-9068.

Credit card donations may be made by calling
(888) 252-6174.

Please note on your check the name and The Advance Number of the missionary you are supporting:

Catherine Whitlatch, Advance Number: 150785
>> Biography


 
See Also...
Topic: Bible Christian love Easter Jesus Christ Lent Missionaries Prayers
Geographic Region: ArgentinaUnited StatesWestern U.S.World
Source: Mission Personnel
 
 

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Date posted: Mar 01, 2009